New Virginia law allows uncontested divorce without court hearing statewide, but some of us already do that
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has signed House Bill 126, which lets uncontested no-fault divorces -- ones where all issues are settled or one spouse does not participate -- be granted based on an affidavit or written deposition by the plaintiff and a third-party witness, instead of having them testify in person, which most Virginia counties now require.
Here at Crouch & Crouch we have already been doing that kind of divorce for a few years now, using a streamlined, standardized written deposition process allowed in Fairfax County but not in any other areas where we practice. It has been especially useful since many of our clients are overseas or out of state. But it is also the most comfortable, convenient and economical option for most of our local clients. We already offer it in all our uncontested cases, because Virginia law lets spouses agree to do their divorce in counties or cities where they don't live, so long as one spouse is a six-month Virginia resident.
The bill does not change the legal standards to qualify for a divorce, but it regularizes what the plaintiff and witness have to testify about, and how. Currently, requirements for the content, as well as the form, of this testimony varies between cities and counties. One judge I practice with only wants most supporting witnesses to answer four questions -- "Do you know the plaintiff, is his testimony true, have you read the Complaint, is everything in it true?" -- and once granted a divorce before letting the supporting witness talk. In the very next county, one judge demands a very high level of corroboration from the supporting witness, and many lawyers' scripts contain about 30 questions for each witness. Some counties require the testimony to be in court in front of a judge, others allow oral depositions transcribed by a court reporter, and some have oral hearings in front of a court reporter and lawyer appointed as a Commissioner, who then makes a report to the court.